Inside The Dangerous Rise Of ‘Abortion Reversal’ Bills

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This year, five states have passed laws mandating that physicians tell patients their abortions can be reversed — even though the evidence says otherwise.

The number of states that require doctors to tell patients their abortions can be reversed with an experimental treatment doubled thi

The rise of so-called “abortion reversal” bills has alarmed leading medical groups that say such legislation forces physicians to give misleading, unscientific and potentially dangerous advice to women, undermining the trusted doctor-patient relationship.

So far this year, five states ― North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arkansas — have passed legislation mandating that physicians counsel women that a medication abortion, a safe and common method for ending a pregnancy before 10 weeks, can be reversed. Similar laws are already on the books in South Dakota, Utah and Idaho. Arkansas expanded an existing law.

How A Medication Abortion Works

Although it’s colloquially called the “abortion pill,” medication abortion is actually a combination of two prescription drugs. First, a patient takes mifepristone, which stops the pregnancy’s progress by blocking the hormone progesterone. One to two days later, the patient takes misoprostol, which causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus.

 

When taken correctly, the drugs result in an abortion 97% of the time.

Proponents of “abortion reversal” ― a term used that pro-life groups use even though it’s inaccurate, as by definition once an abortion has occurred, a woman is no longer pregnant ― claim that medication abortions can be reversed halfway through. They counsel women who have taken mifepristone to forgo the second drug, misoprostol, and instead take high doses of progesterone, often for months.

 

Leading medical groups, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, oppose this experimental practice, as it has not been clinically tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The AMA filed a lawsuit Tuesday to challenge the constitutionality of North Dakota’s “abortion reversal” law, which is set to go into effect Aug. 1. Joining the country’s largest association of doctors is Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in the state, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

 

Under state law, physicians must tell patients that it may be possible to reverse an abortion “if she changes her mind, but time is of the essence.” They must also give patients printed materials directing them to medical professionals who support “abortion reversal.

 

Bottles of the abortion-inducing drug Mifegymiso, a two-drug combination using mifepristone and misoprostol.

Bottles of the abortion-inducing drug Mifegymiso, a two-drug combination using mifepristone and misoprostol.

 

North Dakota’s law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians by requiring them to spread false and non-scientific information, according to Molly Duane, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“This law effectively forces physicians to lie to their patients.”Molly Duane, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights

The Latest Frontier For Abortion Restrictions

Additionally, “abortion reversal” bills are part of a longtime strategy among anti-abortion groups to paint providers as dishonest people who purposely deceive patients, she added.

“They’re trying to make the case that providers are unscrupulous and don’t provide the information that patients need,” Nash said. “But really, it is abortion opponents who rely on flawed and misleading information to push their agenda.”

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